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January 14, 2009

Shrinking rewards programs

Posted: 11:30 AM ET

Credit card reward programs are getting stingier. Banks are trimming these programs in the wake of the financial crisis. Here are the details.

gerri.willis

1) Know what's happening

Here are some ways that credit card companies are scaling back on their rewards programs:
–New spending floors, with some issuers making you spend more to get points
–Requiring more points to get travel perks
–Watch out for shorter expiration dates

Experts say these tweaks may not be very obvious. Since these programs are fairly complicated, it's easier for a card issuer to change the rules without much fanfare.

2) Don't stockpile your points

It's not the economy where you want to bank up your points for a big ticket item. Even if your rewards points don't have an expiration date, those points may be devalued. There's no guarantee that a month from now, or two months from now that those points will be redeemable for its face value. You also want to keep a close eye on your statements.

And if your rewards programs are cut, make sure to call your issuer and complain. Everything is negotiable. And keep in mind that not ALL credit card companies are cutting their rewards programs.
Some companies are getting more aggressive in attracting and retaining customers.

3) Get the best reward cards

Here are some of the best cards according to Cardratings.com.
–Blue cash from American Express (Spend $6,500 you get 5 percent┬áback on certain purchases)
–Fidelity Retirement Rewards American Express (you get a 2 percent┬árebate but it has to go into a Fidelity account)
–Citibank Premier Pass ( you can earn points for every dollar you spend. And earn points when you fly)

For more of Gerri's Top Tips, watch CNN weekdays at 11:15 Eastern Time.

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Filed under: Finance • Living • Willis


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About this blog

Clark Howard helps you become a wise consumer. We know you're busy, and that's why Clark's tips are quick and effective. He'll arm you with the information you need to make smart choices. During these tough economic times, Clark wants to help you save more, spend less and avoid getting ripped off!